Whenever John and I visited his mom in Narragansett, RI, breakfast at The Nook was always on the itinerary. The small restaurant served simple food and was staffed by chatty, 50-something waitresses who called all of us “honey” and always remembered that John’s mom liked the novelty of a blueberry muffin cooked on the grill. It was my kind of place … and that’s why I gravitate to Central Coffee Shoppe.
A friend mentioned recently that he patronizes Central Coffee because he doesn’t like fancy coffee, he likes “coffee coffee.” And even though I don’t drink coffee at all, I understand where he’s coming from. I get my caffeine hit from Central Coffee’s basic unsweet iced tea, but that’s not the draw. It’s the ambiance – brightly lit, a little noisy, decidedly friendly, with wait staff calling out to the regulars and each other as they race between the counter and the booths. One of my favorite ways to spend a morning is claiming a spot and reading the paper or a book while enjoying my bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel and listening to snatches of opinionated exchanges on topics ranging from sports to downtown (over) development.
In this city with enough coffee shops to keep the entire population caffeinated ‘round the clock, it’s nice to have choices that meet my various needs, though the coffee menu is never part of the decision.
Kraft Café’s outdoor seating area is my go-to destination to write and edit. I drink Moroccan mint iced tea and set up in a shady spot where there is little conversation to overhear because almost everyone is plugged in and tuned out. There’s enough traffic noise to create the soundtrack I need in order to be productive, and I typically come away from there with lots of scribbled pages and a sense of creative satisfaction.
And then there’s Kahwah South, the meeting place of choice among 95% of the people I meet with. Particularly in the morning, the vibe is always one of networking and decision-making. Interspersed among the quiet, plugged-in people, politicos and other movers and shakers bend toward each other in earnest-looking conversations. And that spirit is contagious. I’ve finalized more freelance gigs (and drunk more tiny bottles of diet Coke) there than anywhere else in town.
Depending on the reason for leaving my Covid bubble, I always know exactly what my destination will be. When not writing or meeting, Central Coffee Shoppe beckons. I appreciate the throwback diner vibe of friendliness without trendiness. Go there once, and they greet you like an old friend the second time. Go there multiple times and order the same thing, and they greet you with, “You want the usual?”
Of the dozens of other local places that fit the definition of “coffee shop,” I have no opinion because I don’t feel the need to explore them. I’m taking a cue from my niece, Anne, a picky eater who says, “I know what I like and that’s what I eat.” I think she’s onto something. I know what I like and that’s where I go. I don’t really care what I’m missing.